Good Questions about the Green and Sustainable Economy

What is the green economy?

The terms green economy, or sustainable economy, refer to enterprises and market activities that change how we power our work and lives, what we do with our waste and the ways we consume. The goals of these activities are to reduce carbon emissions and limit negative ecological effects. A greener, more sustainable economy is efficient: fueled with renewable or ‘clean’ energy sources; parsimonious in its use of water and other resources, and light in its impact on the environment. Carbon is increasingly seen as something to use very mindfully. The term green economy is used widely, in political, social, environmental and economic conversations. There is a concern that it has become a buzz word with little real meaning.

And are there jobs?

Reducing carbon emissions has job creating effects:

  • The 2015 Clean Energy Industry Report by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, indicates continued growth of the Massachusetts clean energy sector – a 64% increase in clean energy jobs since 2010, when the survey was instituted.

Re-localizing production, of food, or of other items, holds promise for job growth:

  • Farm Credit East’s report: Northeast Agriculture – The Overlooked Economic Engine describes the economic impact of agriculture in the 6 state region: $17.4 billion in farm output with 175,515 directly employed and this production “supports $53.9 billion of processing output as well as 203,371 jobs in downstream processing and marketing as well as upstream agribusiness support activities.”

Do people think we need to address climate change?  

There is concern about climate change, and, interestingly, willingness to take action to address climate change often outstrips concern:

What are the jobs?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines green jobs as either

  • Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources
  • Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

A ‘green’ job is a compelling concept, but the term doesn’t actually describe a specific job or even a category of jobs. Think of a trash hauler working for a collection company that also collects yard and food waste for composting and therefore increases soil fertility and captures carbon in the soil. Think of a landscaper who uses a solar powered lawn mower rather than a mower powered by fossil fuels. Think of a purchasing manager at a large company who purchases with an eye to recycled content, organic and local. All of these might be considered green jobs.

Are there specific sectors that we’re seeing jobs in?

Clean energy, also called renewable or alternative energy, has been an early area for jobs. These include installers, maintainers, as well as sales, bookkeeping, management and finance positions.  Clean energy includes energy efficiency and the work there includes insulation installers, air sealers and energy auditors.

Local food is a growing area for jobs, including an increasing number of farming jobs – positions like CSA managers, food educators. As well as unique interpretations of familiar jobs and new kinds of work: food trucks serving locally-sourced produce and meats and jobs whose purpose is to build connections between farms and school cafeterias.

And across diverse sectors there are examples of companies that prioritize sustainability looking for workers: cloth diaper services, bicycle messengers, urban garden designers, all natural make-up manufacturers, small appliance repair, and many others.

How can climate-savvy workers make a difference?

Many workers have a clear-eyed view of their jobs and the companies they work for. Tapping this knowledge, and combining it with an energy-conserving, waste-reducing, efficiency-promoting perspective gains employers a climate adaptation ally on their staff.

Why are these jobs a good option for unemployed adults, career changers and, adult basic education students ?

These jobs are a good option in two ways. One, as we shift our economy toward greater sustainability there is a trend for re-localization of jobs that had previously been outsourced and an increase in work that can’t be out-sourced, like energy efficiency and farming. Two, increasing sustainability will mean the re-invention of work across our economy; such re-invention creates opportunities  for building an economy that is more inclusive and that requires all of us to contribute time and talent.

 Why is it important to increase our climate savvy?

Climate change is one of the most significant and defining challenges of our time. It will change the way we are living and working will and likely change it dramatically. All of us need to fully understand this challenge and the possible ramifications, and, all of us are needed to re-invent how we live and work.


Another good question:

What do compliance managers, roofers, financial analysts, reporters, and machinists have in common?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes each of these occupations as green! Between them, their work contributes to the following green economy sectors:

  • Energy Efficiency,
  • Governmental and Regulatory Administration,
  • Manufacturing,
  • Renewable Energy Generation,
  • Environment Protection, Research, Design, and Consulting Services and,
  • Green Construction.

Learn more about these, and other, occupations and sectors here


Finding Earth Works